|Sunday, 18 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-03-09
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 9 March 2010 Issue No: 3439
 PM Papandreou holds talks with Hillary ClintonWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed on Monday the efforts being made by the Greek government to handle the economic crisis and accepted the suggestion by the Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou for the US and the other major economies of the planet to discuss the need to improve auditing apparatuses in markets during the next G20 summit.
During their 45-minute meeting at the State Department, the Greek prime minister and the head of American diplomacy also discussed developments on the issue of Cyprus, the Balkans and NATO operations in Afghanistan.
In a joint press conference, Clinton stressed "Greece's leading and strategic role in the Balkans" and praised the initiatives of Papandreou in the diplomatic field and on the issue of Greek-Turkish relations in particular.
The Greek prime minister pointed out that Greece was not calling for economic aid, neither from the US nor from any other, but was highlighting the need for better and coordinated checks by governments so that profiteering games against countries and peoples can be avoided.
"The economic crisis made us understand very well that we may suffer pressures, but the markets' functioning needs regulating mechanisms and this is the message I bring after talks with the other European leaders," Papandreou said, adding: "We have taken very difficult decisions regarding the handling of the (Greece's) deficit and the economy's growth. Always within the framework of green development. We have witnessed some speculation practices which can be handled through cooperation between the European nations and the USA."
He also underlined the goal of incorporating all the countries of the western Balkans in the European Union by 2014, while revealing that he intends to meet soon with his Turkish counterpart Tayip Erdogan in the framework of the effort to normalise Greek-Turkish relations.
"Yes, Western Balkan countries must belong to the European family, Greek-Turkish relations are very important for us and we support Turkey's efforts for EU accession, but there are problems that have to be solved such as the Cyprus issue and human rights," Papandreou noted.
"We want normal borrowing interests, we want political and not economic support. If any problems arise, the necessary tools, which will help us deal with speculators, will also be found," the Greek premier also added, while responding to press questions.
On her part, Clinton noted that "neither the prime minister nor Greece have asked for something, and we congratulate them for the steps they are taking."
"We want to avoid the negative consequences from a deregulation of the markets," she added.
In her opening statement at the start of the joint press conference, Clinton thanked the Greek prime minister "for his contribution to our cooperation for our presence in Afghanistan, but also for the cooperation of the two countries in the fight against terrorism. We discussed the problems in the Balkans and we know that Greece will help towards stability in the region."
 Papandreou address to Brookings InstitutionWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou spoke at the noted Brookings Institution here, where he spoke extensively on the ongoing deficit and economic crisis plaguing Greece, a day before his meeting at the White House with US President Barack Obama.
Papandreou referred directly to the latest batch of austerity measures taken by Greece last week to trim the double-digit budget deficit and a ballooning public debt.
"To restore confidence in our country and stability to our economy, we pledged to bring the 12.7 percent deficit down to 8 percent this year, and to EU-mandated levels of 3 percent by 2012 ... To meet those targets, the (Greek) Parliament has adopted the toughest austerity measures in Greece's modern history ..." he said.
The Greek prime minister, in fact, cited the late 1940s-era landmark "Truman Doctrine" to emphasise the gravity of the situation now affecting Greece, but also Europe as well.
"Fifty-three years ago this week, on March 12, 1947, President (Harry) Truman rose before a special joint session of Congress. He was there to warn America of a looming new crisis. A crisis that revolved in part around Greece, but was in essence a European crisis. One that directly affected America's interests. In that speech, President Truman introduced a vision and laid down the sturdy foundation for policies and institutions -- such as the Marshall Plan and the Bretton Woods arrangements that enabled our two continents to rise above the crisis and build an unprecedented era of shared peace and prosperity," he said:
"Today, I have come to Washington this week to speak about another crisis in Europe. This crisis, too, revolves in part around Greece. This crisis, too, very much involves America's interests. We know Greece faced not only a fiscal deficit, but also a credibility deficit, as a result of the fabricated budget figures our predecessors had published. The EU was understandably sceptical about our promises to rein in the deficit and crack down on corruption. But we are demonstrating Greece's decisiveness," he said, one day after his meeting in Paris with French President Nicholas Sarkozy and following Friday's meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Papandreou emphasised that the current crisis refers, in large part, to a crisis in global governance and a dogmatic reverence for the free market. He also referred to neglect for the transatlantic relationship between Europe and America.
"My conclusion is that cooperation between Europe and the US must be reviltalised," he said, amongst others.
In return back to the Greek financial crisis, Papandreou said:
"After we took office, we discovered that the budget deficit was actually double-double-what our predecessors had told us, European authorities, and the Greek people. Our announcement of this discovery rocked investor confidence-not only regarding the finances of Greece, but also the soundness of the currency we share with our European neighbours. All of you understand that this crisis, like Wall Street's original crisis in 2008, risks spreading more widely. Many worry it could reignite the global financial crisis-and produce a Crisis 2.0," he said.
The Greek premier cited his meetings with Merkel and Sarkozy, as well as previous contacts with Gordon Brown and Jose Luis Zapatero, on how to resolve theon-going crisis and how to prevent it from spreading.
"... And that is why I will meet tomorrow with President Obama -- not only as a Greek leader -- but also as a European leader, to discuss the important role I believe the United States can play to ensure that Greece, Europe, and America remain strong, healthy partners," he added, stressing that "our goal was - and remains - to transform Greece into a thriving economy driven by green technology and investment in our natural and human resources."
Beyond recent tax hikes and salary cuts in the Greece's vast public sector, Papandreou also touched on another serious problem affecting finances in the east Mediterranean country, namely, tax evasion, which he placed at the top of the list of priorities.
"To give you just one measure of the scope of that problem: Fewer than 5,000 Greeks declare incomes of 100,000 euro or more. That pattern ends now. We will be prosecuting offenders -- no matter how rich or powerful -- to show that we mean business. The rule of law means that the law applies to all. Such changes will bring in billions in unpaid taxes, and help underpin our return to fiscal health."
Furthermore, Papandreou addressed what he called the threat of money market speculation for sovereign borrowers.
"Greece may be doing all the right things to revive our economy. But not everyone may want us to succeed. This brings me to my second point: the need to address the threat of speculation and ill-regulated financial markets-a threat that imperils not only Greece, but the entire global economy. I see that threat every day as we manage this crisis, for the immediate problem we face is not dealing with the recession, but in servicing our debt. Despite the deep reforms we are making, traders and speculators have forced interest rates on Greek bonds to record highs," he said, adding:
"Many believe there have been malicious rumours, endlessly repeated and tactically amplified, that have been used to manipulate normal market terms for our bonds."
Besides the ominous debt and borrowing crisis, he also touched on Greek-Turkish relations, saying "I look forward to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Athens in the coming months. I believe we can make new breakthroughs in our relationship and become a symbol of stability in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
In concluding, Papandreou underlined the long-standing ties between allies Greece and the United States.
"Greece has long been America's partner in values and in history. We are determined to be an ever-stronger partner for the US in world affairs -- in commerce, in culture, in security. Now, I ask you to stand with us and work with us again -- as we each confront our own challenges of change, and as we work together to realise our shared interest in a strong Europe and a sound global economic system."
On his part, Strobe Talbott, the president of the Brookings Institution and a former deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration, praised the visiting Greek Prime Minister for his leadership capacities.
Talbott said that in the late 1990s, Papandreou, the foreign minister at the time, "had shown his visionary capacity and political courage, proving also his ability to solve problems."
Referring to Tuesday's talks between Papandreou and Obama, Talbott expressed his conviction the two leaders would not focus on the past but on the future.
 PM Papandreou arrives in Washington, meeting with Obama on TuesdayWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
Prime Minister George Papandreou will meet with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday in Washington DC, where he arrived late Sunday night (6:00 a.m. Monday Greek time) for a three-day visit, directly from Paris where he held talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier.
Papandreou, who is also Greece's foreign minister, is companied by economy minister George Papaconstantinou and alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas.
On Monday evening Papandreou was to attend a formal reception in his honor at Blair House, the US President's official state guest house.
On Tuesday, he will have talks with Obama, following a meeting earlier with Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi at the Capitol. After his meeting with Obama, he will meet with Geithner, followed by a visit to Congress, where he will have meetings with the Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell.
Afterwards, Papandreou will return to the White House to attend the annual celebration of (the March 25) Greek Independence Day, which will be celebrated on March 9 this year with the presence of Obama, Archbishop Demetrios of America, members of Congress, and prominent Greek-Americans.
On Wednesday, the Greek premier will meet with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, and other Committee members.
While in Washington, Papandreou will have a series of interviews and contacts with the US and other media.
 ND spokesman on Prime Minister's contacts abroadMain opposition New Democracy (ND) press spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos said on Monday that his party will take a position on prime minister George Papandreou's string of contacts abroad after the premier's meeting in Washington with US President Barack Obama, which is slated for Tuesday.
Panagiotopoulos said that, following Papandreou's meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Sunday, it has become clear that the prospect of Greece taking recourse in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has become distant.
"We particularly welcome the statements by French President Sarkozy. They are statements that reinforce the bonds of political cohesion among the eurozone member countries and give the required picture of solidarity that is needed not only by Greece, but by everyone," Panagiotopoulos added.
He also described as "particularly positive" Sarkozy's observation that from the moment that the EMU was created, there must be institutions to protect the euro from speculators' attacks. He noted that ND leader Antonis Samaras had been the first to point out that prospective recourse in the IMF would create broader problems, adding that this had been one of the main reasons that Samaras went to Brussels recently and met with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and Belgian former prime minister Wilfried Martens, who is a co-founder and president (since 1992) of the European Peoples Party (EPP) grouping in the European Parliament, to which ND also belongs.
Panagiotopoulos also announced that Samaras will go to Brussels again on March 25 for the EPP conference with the intention of advancing Greece's positions, aimed at European backing for Greece.
The ND spokesman further expressed his party's strong displeasure over articles appearing in a handful of German publications containing unacceptable claims regarding Greece, and thanked the Greeks abroad and the various forums who replied to the "slanderous and insulting articles".
Asked to comment on recent statements by ruling PASOK officials, Panagiotopoulos said that Papandreou apparently has not succeeded in convincing even his own party on the necessity of the measures the government has announcement and on the purpose of their implementation.
 ND leader criticises government economic policyMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, addressing a party event on Monday, on the occasion of World Women's Day, criticised the government for its handling of the economy, while also referring to his party's five-year tenure.
Samaras placed the responsibility for the present state of the economy on the government, saying that "mistakes and omissions of our own governance are to blame as well. The present government inertia is mainly to blame, the lack of a plan, the betrayal of expectations cultivated by PASOK, the breaking of promises it gave before the elections. As well as the lack of will, the delaying and the confusion it showed after the elections."
The ND leader said that PASOK was aware of the state of the economy when, before the elections, "it was promising everything to everybody" and that it had also been briefed by the then relevant EU Commissioner Joacquin Almunia as well, and the Governor of the Bank of Greece.
He further accused PASOK of "wasting time, and then it paralysed, the spreads increased, Greece borrowed at a much greater cost than was the case until very recently and then it was obliged to compromise with the most burdensome measures that have ever been imposed on a eurozone member-state."
Samaras expressed disagreement with the measures taken by the government, stressing that "we disagree, therefore, not only with most of the measures that were announced a few days ago. We also disagree with the total policy mixture that is being followed."
He explained that "the measures are immersing the economy in recession and do not ultimately reduce the deficits, on the contrary they severely harm the economy, they harm society seriously, the ordinary man, the weak citizen, the middle class and immerse the dreams of young people in darkness."
Samaras added that the government's measures "go far beyond the endurances of society" and stressed that ND proposes a policy mixture that saves the economy, changes the model and restructures public finances.
Samaras concluded his address by saying that "all of us together will achieve victory. A victory, not for us to take power, but for us to change Greece. A victory not for our party alone. A victory for all of Greece."
 PAME union, Women's Federation organise rally on economic measuresTrade unionists and working women held a rally at Pedion tou Areos Square in downtown Athens on Monday afternoon and then marched to Parliament, responding to the call by the Communist Party of Greece-affiliated labour union PAME and the Federation of Women of Greece (OGE) , demanding the withdrawal of the "antipopular government measures."
A banner read "100 years of struggles and sacrifices for the equality of women and the abolition of exploitation. 1910-2010 escalation of the struggle. PAME OGE."
The event, attended by Communist Party Secretary General Aleka Papariga, focused on the demands of the women's movement and called on women to boost their forces and actions in workplaces.
 Papoulias-Pangalos meetingPresident Karolos Papoulias on Monday received government vice-president Theodoros Pangalos at the presidential mansion.
Upon his arrival, Pangalos stated that "the atmosphere is not pleasant", referring to a series of austerity measures adopted by the government , while pointing out, however, that "it is justifiable".
He also stated that "the prime minister won some good commitments in the meetings with our (European) partners."
 Papoulias receives health ministerPresident Karolos Papoulias met with Health and Social Solidarity Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou on Monday.
Upon her arrival at the presidential mansion, Xenoyiannako-oulou stated that "a battle is being fought for the National Health System" and noted that "despite the major economic difficulties, the prime minister has made the specific sector a priority because hirings are necessary."
Xenoyiannakopoulou stated that a priority is given to the Intensive Care Units (ICU), stressing that 83 new ICU hospital beds are already available expected to reach 150 in the near future.
 Minister withdraws 'urgent' classification from public-sector management billInterior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis on Monday withdrew a recommendation that a draft bill on selecting public-sector managerial staff be processed as urgent legislation.
During discussion of the draft legislation tabled on Monday before the relevant Parliamentary committee, Ragoussis explained that the bill setting up a Special Council for Selection of Supervisors had been tabled as urgent in order to avert the 'paralysis' of public administration but said he would not insist if the other political parties disagreed.
There was heated discussion within the committee on whether the bill should be returned and follow the entire regular procedure from scratch but it was finally decided that the proceedings on Monday should be treated as a "pre-deliberation" and that debate on the bill in principle will begin from the afternoon.
Explaining the reasons why the bill had been tabled as urgent, Ragoussis said that under normal procedure the legislation would not be passed until May, meaning that many managers in state sector services would essentially stop working effectively because they would know that they were about to be replaced.
He stressed that this would greatly hamper the operation of the state sector at a time when every hour was crucial in all ministries. He yielded to the opposition of the other parties, however, and said the government would not insist.
Among those speaking out against the treatment of the bill as urgent were former Parliament president under PASOK Apostolos Kaklamanis and PASOK MP Miltiadis Papaioannou.
The decision to table the bill as urgent had been strongly criticised by main opposition New Democracy spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos earlier in the day, who said it was "reminiscent of the worst forms of PASOK party bias", while the minister's explanation was slammed as "insulting" for public-sector staff by his ND predecessor Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
 ND slams draft bill for selecting public-sector managementMain opposition New Democracy spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos on Monday sharply criticised a draft bill unveiled by the interior ministry for the selection of public-sector managerial staff, to be tabled in Parliament the same day.
The bill was reminiscent of "the worst forms of PASOK party bias," Panagiotopoulos asserted, at a time when the country needed unity and national consensus.
"After the encroachment of party politics in the Armed Forces and security forces, the government is now turning against the public-sector officials and executives that have chosen not to belong to PASOK party organisations," he added.
Panagiotopoulos accused the government of abusing Parliamentary rules by tabling the bill using summary proceedings for urgent legislation and said it would completely undermine all sense of meritocracy in public administration.
 Environment ministry unveils energy efficiency bill for public debateThe environment ministry on Monday announced that a new draft bill on improving energy efficiency and other energy-related issues had been posted on the website www.opengov.gr for public debate.
It said the new draft bill includes the sum of policies and measures harmonising Greek legislation with EU directives for reducing energy consumption, restricting losses of energy and improving energy efficiency.
Among others, it seeks to change the way that power is used and consumed by consumers so that energy requirements are lowered, while at the same time improving quality of life by creating the conditions and requirements for an energy services market and the provision of energy efficiency improvement measures to consumers.
The ministry envisages that the legislation will create a new scene in which companies will provide full energy services, from the provision and installation of appliances to the funding of the cost and management of the system.
"The role of these businesses will be to undertake the technological and investment risk and thus provide cheaper energy services, carrying out measures to improve energy efficiency in the installations or home of a user. The payment of the services provided will be based on achieving the improvements in energy efficiency. These projects can also be carried out via funding by third parties. This is an alternative means of carrying out private energy conservation investments where funds do not exist," a ministry announcement said.
 Environment minister meets European Commissioner PotocnikEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili on Monday had a working meeting with European Commissioner for environmental issues Janez Potocnik, who briefed her on the targets and policies of the new EU Commission.
According to a ministry announcement, Birbili outlined the government's priorities for protecting the environment and forests and they discussed outstanding complaints against Greece over the handling of wastes and protection of habitats.
 Greek-French sea-air exercises this monthA French naval flotilla will conduct training exercises with the Hellenic Air Force in the first half of this month in the Ionian and Aegean regions, according to a press release issued on Monday by the defence ministry.
Air-to-air, air-to-ground and aeronautical support exercises are planned.
Hellenic Air Force F-16s, Mirage 2000s, A-7s along with an AWACS unit will join the French aircraft carrier "Charles de Gaulle", the anti-aircraft frigate "Jean Bart" (D 615) and the anti-submarine frigate"Dupleix" (D 641) in the maneuvers.
The state-of-the-art carrier fields Rafale and Super Étendard fighters and the Hawkeye reconnaissance aircraft.
 Gov't to offer low-cost loans to SMEsThe Greek government on Monday unveiled a program, budgetted at 2.0 billion euros, to offer low-cost loans with state guarantee to 100,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises to cover their tax and social insurance payments and their debts to suppliers.
Presenting the program, Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Luca Katseli said the aim was to ensuring the survival of enterprises during this crucial period, to protecting job positions, boosting liquidity in the market and raising cash for state coffers and pension funds.
Under the program, details of which are expected to be offered in March 15, eligible will be all kinds of enterprises with the precondition to employ up to 50 workers and with an annual turnover of no more than 10 million euros.
Interest on the loans will range from 5 pct to 6 pct (six-month Euribor plus 4-5 pct). The loans will cover up to 100 pct of enterprises' payments to the state, pension funds and suppliers. The state fund for offering financial support to small- and medium-sized enterprises TEMPME, will offer a guarantee covering 80 pct of the loan, while banks could demand collateral from enterprises for up to 10 pct of the loan. The program, covering payments to the state and pension funds, will be valid until December 31, 2010, while payments to suppliers will run until December 31, 2011.
Economy Minister Luca Katseli, speaking to reporters, also welcomed actions and initiatives taken by employers' groups to absorb the whole, or the biggest part of a VAT increase and not pass it on to consumers. GESEBEE's president D. Asimakopoulos, told reporters that enterprises won't pass on higher VAT rates to consumers. He said that turnover in the market has fallen so much that enterprises were forced to cut prices. Asimakopoulos also dismissed talk that enterprises were examining cutting payment of the 14th salary in the private sector.
 Economy minister urges businesses to absorb VAT increaseEconomy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli on Monday hailed pledges by industrial and business organisations for action to absorb the rise in VAT imposed by the government so that it was not passed on to consumers.
"It is important to support the real income and not pass the increases onto prices. At the same time, we are taking all necessary steps, activating inspection mechanisms and consumer organisations and including new products and services in the price Observatory," she said.
Her views were echoed by the head of the GSEBEE workshops and light industry union Dimitris Asimakopoulos, who stressed that it would be impossible to tack the VAT increase onto prices during the current period.
"There is such a big reduction in turnover that not only can we not increase prices, even if this would be justified, but we are forced to reduce prices," he said.
Replying to rumours about a possible reduction of the 14th 'holiday' wage in the private sector as well, Katseli said the government's role "is not to intervene in the negotiations of the social partners," meaning between trade unions and employer associations.
 Gov't intervention for resumption of drilling off KavalaDeputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis met Monday with representatives of Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (EL.PE) and Aegean Energy S.A. within the framework of a mediation initiative for the resumption of oil drilling in a sea region off Kavala in northern Greece.
Maniatis said afterwards that the outcome of the meeting was positive, guaranteeing investments, a mutual utilization of know-how and the exploitation of the country's oil reserves.
Aegean Energy S.A. has been implementing an investment project in the region since 2008, with an output of 5,000 barrels of oil a day.
The meeting focused on the promotion of the research programme in the sea region around Thassos island, through the agreement reached between Aegean Energy S.A. and the Canadian company Calfrac Well Services Ltd.
The agreement provides that the Canadian firm shares in the regions, west and east of Thassos (70 pct), be transferred to Aegean Energy S.A.. The transfer has been given the go ahead by the Greek state but it also has to have the approval of EL.PE.
The ministry announced that the representatives of EL.PE and Aegean Energy S.A. agreed to provide the necessary financial guarantees for the completion of the above mentioned agreement and to cooperate to accelerate drilling.
 Eurobank issues 500-mln-euro covered bondEurobank EFG on Monday announced its first issue of covered bonds, worth 500 million euros, rated Aa2 by Moody's, as part of a strategy to take advantage of its assets and further boosting its liquidity. Deutsche Bank and HSBC were consultants to the issue.
The five-year bond, carries an interest rates of ECB benchmark plus 250 basis points. The bond is covered by Eurobank's mortgage loans. The bank's board has approved a plan to issue covered bonds up to 5.0 billion euros.
 Labour minister denies plans to cut wages in private sectorThe European Commission has at no time asked Greece to cut the holiday wages in the private sector, Labour Minister Andreas Loverdos repeated on Monday in Brussels, where he is attending a meeting of EU employment ministers.
Loverdos underlined that the issue had not been raised during his recent meeting with European Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn, nor in two earlier meetings with experts sent by the European Commission, Eurostat and the European Central Bank.
 Fishermen demand compensation for phytoplankton-caused damagesFishermen who have seen their catch wane as a result of the increased presence of phytoplankton in the sea region off the prefecture of Xanthi, northernmost part of the Aegean Sea, have requested to be treated equally with the farmers and be compensated for their losses.
The prefect of Xanthi addressed a letter to Rural Development and Food Minister Katerina Batzeli stressing that the unpredictable natural phenomenon that has notably increased during the past few months, has caused extensive damage to local fishermen.
The prefectural authorities underlined that "compensating the fishermen is imperative to maintain equal treatment with the farmers."
 New slogan for Greece's ad campaignGreece's 2010 summer season tourism campaign will soon be launched by the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) under the slogan "Kalimera" (Greek for "good morning"), a campaign targeting the global market.
Speaking in a special event at the Foundation of the Hellenic World on Monday, Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Angela Gerekou said the ad campaign will be based on existing material that has been reshaped and renewed.
The music score of the campaign will be composer Manos Hadjidakis' "Mona Lisa's Smile".
The GNTO internet portal www.visitgreece.gr has also been revamped. This year's tourism campaign will cost roughly 12 million euros.
 Protesters continue to block access to General Accounting OfficeThe mobilizations of Federation of Civil Aviation Authority Associations (OSPA) members who have blocked access to the General Accounting Office in Athens since last Thursday have caused serious problems to the operation of the agency responsible for the state budget's execution and monitoring.
Major problems are being observed in the making of decisions and their implementation as regards the materialization of the state budget.
The General Accounting Office agencies is also responsible for the signing of decisions concerning the payment of salaries and pensions in the public sector.
 Gasoline sellers on strike on March 18The board of the Gasoline Sellers Federation decided on Monday night to call for a 24-hour closure of gasoline stations next Thursday, March 18. The sector's general assembly will be convening on March 21 to decide on the form of further action.
Gasoline sellers are reacting to the instalment of cash registers without the simultaneous instalment of integrated systems for the control of the inflow and outflow of the volume of fuel at gasoline stations, while they are also protesting the illegal, as they are stressing, retrogressive increase in the Special Consumption Tax last February, with a procedure that burdened gasoline sellers.
 Lawsuits filed for SMS fraudPrivate companies who have sent fraudulent text messages to mobile phones charging their owners without their consent, thus making considerable profits, have been slapped by lawsuits filed by the Electronic Crime Squad in Athens, following an investigation conducted in cooperation with the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) and the consumer ombudsman office.
The investigation was conducted in response to complaints made by consumers.
The majority of the SMS sent were ads and recipients were getting an average of four text messages a week charged two euros each.
 Hellenic Exchanges says net profits 29.5 mln euros in 2009Hellenic Exchanges on Monday said its consolidated after tax profits totaled 29.5 million euros in 2009, while in a comparable basis (excluding an extra tax charge of 12.1 million euros) consolidated net profits totaled 41.6 million euros, from 65 million euros in 2008, down 36 pct.
The Group's board will seek shareholders' approval to pay a 0.22 euros per share dividend to shareholders and a capital return of 0.13 euros per share.
Consolidated turnover fell 28 pct to 78.3 million euros in 2009, from 108.4 million euros in 2008, reflecting a drop in share prices while turnover grew 20 pct to 11.5 billion euros.
The value of transactions fell 35 pct to 50.9 billion euros, while expenses pre-amortizations fell for the fifth consecutive year. Operating spending fell 12 pct to 23.1 million euros, while operating earnings dropped 38 pct to 50.2 million euros and net earnings per share fell to 0.45 euros, from 0.92 euros in 2008.
 Info-Quest returned to profits in 2009Info-Quest Group on Monday reported after tax and minorities profits of 3.7 million euros in 2009, after losses of 26.4 million euros in the previous year.
The group said sales totaled 402 million euros, from 459 million euros in 2008, down 12 pct, reflecting lower sales in the IT market in Greece. EBITDA was 14.8 million euros in 2009, from a negative 11.8 million euros in 2008. Pre-tax profits was 7.7 million euros, after losses of 32.5 million euros in 2008, while borrowing was 32.6 million euros, down 56 pct and cash reserves totaled 21.2 million euros, up from 14.1 million euros a year earlier.
Info-Quest, however, said 2009 results were not comparable with 2008, because of the integration of Rainbow SA. Parent sales fell 19 pct to 211 million euros in 2009, pre-tax results showed losses of 1.5 million euros, down from a loss of 34.9 million euros in 2008, while after tax losses also plunged to 1.2 million euros from 30.4 million euros, over the same period, respectively.
 MIG in talks to sell bakery and candies businessMarfin Investment Group (MIG) on Monday confirmed press reports that the group was in talks with Olayan Group and Spyros Theodoropoulos to sell its bakery and sweets sector (former Chipita), after completion of a plan to split Vivartia's four business sectors.
MIG said it will timely inform investors over developments in the talks.
 Thrace Plastics reports higher 2009 resultsThrace Plastics on Monday reported a 19.4 pct increase in its consolidated pre-tax profits last year, which were expected to total 5.9 million euros, while after tax and minorities earnings were projected at 3.5 million euros, up 8.2 pct compared with 2008.
Consolidated turnover was expected to total 197.2 million euros, down 21.5 pct from the previous year, while consolidated EBITDA was expected to fall 16.1 pct to 20.5 million euros in 2009.
 Stocks edge higher on Mon.Stocks ended slightly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, unable to hold on to their early strong gains. The composite index of the market rose 0.26 pct to end at 2,087.45 points, with turnover a low 152.503 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index edged 0.06 pct higher, the FTSE 40 index fell 0.22 pct and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.44 pct. The Food (2.53 pct) and Utilities (2.51 pct) scored gains, while Constructions (2.11 pct) and Health (2.10 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Klonatex (16.67 pct), AEGEK (16.05 pct), Compucon (14.29 pct) and PC Systems (11.76 pct) were top gainers, while Eurobrokers (10.14 pct), Optronic Technologies (10.0 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farming (9.09 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 90 to 87 with another 56 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.51%
Personal & Household: -0.40%
Raw Materials: -0.63%
Travel & Leisure: +1.45%
Food & Beverages: +2.53%
Financial Services: +1.18%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and Coca Cola.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 7.20
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.65
HBC Coca Cola: 20.08
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.58
National Bank of Greece: 15.51
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.39
Bank of Piraeus: 6.62
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year new Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 307 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 6.09 pct and the German Bund 3.11 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 920 million euros, of which 445 million were buy orders and the remaining 475 million were sell orders. The three-year bond (March 20, 2012) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 240 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.26 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover shrinking to 49.917 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,463 contracts, worth 39.083 million euros with 36,117 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,586 contracts worth 10.834 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,877), followed by MIG (2,307), PPC (1,286), Piraeus Bank (521), Eurobank (729), Alpha Bank (1,051), Hellaktor (976) and Cyprus Bank (857).
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.377
Pound sterling 0.909
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 9.756
Japanese yen 124.47
Swiss franc 1.474
Norwegian kroner 8.113
Canadian dollar 1.413
Australian dollar 1.509
 Snow and low temperatures in northern GreeceA spate of bad weather with low temperatures and snowfall prevailed on Monday in Northern Greece. Heavy snow started to fall early Monday in Grevena and Florina prefectures while light snow is currently falling in Thessaloniki, where the temperature is -2C. Schools in several regions of Northern Greece will remain closed for the day. Roads are covered with snow and traffic is possible only with the use of snow chains.
The Rio-Antirrio bridge linking the Peloponnese with central Greece is partly closed due to gusty winds prevailing in the area, with a prohibition for motorcycles, trucks with large surfaces, and trucks not carrying loads, for precautionary reasons.
According to National Meteorological Service (EMY), wet weather and snow are forecast in most parts of the country on Monday, with the exception of Crete and the Dodecanese Islands which will have scattered clouds. Winds mainly east northeasterly, ranging from 5-8 Beaufort on the mainland and rising up to gale force at sea. Temperatures will be between -1C and 23C. Rain in Attica, with temperatures from 8C to 11C. Snow and sleet in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -1C to 3C.
 AHEPA to honor 3 U.S. Senators, 6 distinguished Greek AmericansThe American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), America's oldest and largest Hellenic heritage organization, will honor three distinguished U.S. senators and a group of six Greek Americans for their commitment to community leadership and long-standing records of public service at a banquet on May 1 in Chicago, it was announced on Monday.
The tri-state American Hellenic community from Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana will gather at the AHEPA-sponsored banquet to honor U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois; U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar from Indiana; and U.S. Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin.
AHEPA Supreme President Nicholas Karacostas said that:"These three public servants have had distinguished careers. "Each in their own way has been a friend and supporter of the Greek American community, and we are pleased to honor them for their many achievements in public life."
AHEPA will also honor World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) honorary president Andrew A. Athens, a business and church leader who has accomplished a long list of humanitarian and philanthropic achievements; Harry Mark Petrakis, a noted award-winning author who has published many books; Dr. Mary Dochios-Kamberos, a philanthropist who has contributed significant gifts to the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center and the Greek American Rehabilitation Center; John Kass, an award-winning journalist and columnist for the Chicago Tribune; Chris Chelios, a professional hockey player who is a National Hockey League All-Star and member of a Stanley Cup championship team; and James Megellas, a WWII veteran who has been described as the most decorated officer in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division.
"All of these Greek Americans have led extraordinary careers and have contributed much to their respective communities and our nation. Some have undertaken humanitarian missions; some have fought in wars to preserve freedom; and others have worked in their own special ways to give back to their communities and earn the respect and admiration of their colleagues," said Karacostas.
Senator Durbin will receive the AHEPA Pericles Award; and Senators Feingold and Lugar will each receive the AHEPA Paul E. Tsongas Public Service Award. Athens will receive an AHEPA Lifetime Achievement Award, and Petrakis, Kass, Chelios and Dr. Dochios-Kamberos will each receive AHEPA Academy of Achievement Awards in their respective fields. Megellas will receive the AHEPA Medal of Freedom.
Karacostas noted that this is the first year that AHEPA will have regional award banquets rather than one national gathering in Washington, D.C. The regional program was initiated in an effort to increase participation on a local level and bring more attention to the civic achievements of Greek Americans. Portland, Oregon, and New York City have already hosted other regional banquet, while a fourth regional banquet is planned for Tampa this fall, in addition to the Chicago banquet on May 1.
 European Conference on Monitoring Ionizing Radiation opens in AthensThe European Conference on "Individual Monitoring of Ionizing Radiation", organised by the Greek Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), opened on Monday in Athens and will be concluded on March 12.
The meeting is taking place at the Athens Megaron International Congress Center under the auspices of the European Commission in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European scientific network EURADOS (the European Radiation Dosimetry Group).
A major event in the field of individual monitoring, the annual Conference brings together scientists from regulatory authorities, individual monitoring services, research bodies, European networks and companies, for the purpose of facilitating the dissemination of knowledge, exchanging experiences and promoting new ideas in the field of individual monitoring.
The Conference, being held in Greece for the first time, is attended by more than 300 scientists from all over the world.
 Greek women more liberated in sex, survey findsGreek women are adopting sexual behaviour more like the more prototypes that used to be associated with men, according to a survey carried out by the Andrological Institute and the Institute for the Sexual Health of Women that was unveiled on Monday.
In a questionnaire completed by 1,800 women aged 34-45 years old, around 40 percent said that they prefer lovers that are younger than they are. Around 28 percent prefer partners that are the same age and 27 percent prefer older men.
Women are also more inclined to admit cheating on their partners, with 64 percent saying that they have been unfaithful.
Around half would be prepared to divorce for the sake of their career and 48 percent would choose another sexual partner if they were not satisfied with the one they already have.
The report finds that women's financial independence also leads to greater sexual emancipation, while the Greek women in the survey appear less prejudiced and to enjoy sex even after menopause. Another plus for older women are better and more frequent orgasms during sex, while more women are aware that a good sex life is an important quality of life indicator and of good health.
The survey also debunks the idea that women have a more "romantic" and less physical approach to sex, since most no longer hesitate to admit that external appearance is what they chiefly find attractive in a sexual partner, with key features considered to be the buttocks, back, legs and sternum of a man.
 Sparta youths charged with arsonist, racist attackPolice in the town of Sparta, Peloponnese on Monday drew up charges against 12 teenage boys and a 23-year-old man for an arsonist, racially-motivated attack on a group of economic migrants from Bangladesh.
All the youths except the 23-year-old are in highschool, two of them are adults aged 18 and 19, respectively, and the rest are aged between 14 and 17. They are accused of setting fire to lodgings occupied by the 10 Bangladeshis, based on evidence uncovered by a police investigation ordered by a public prosecutor one month after the attack, on March 5.
There had been no investigation of the incident during the previous month because the migrants had made no report and the fire brigade had not been called in to put out the fire. The incident caused reactions by anti-racist groups in Sparta, however, and a flyer referring to the arson attack was distributed in the town centre, through which authorities learned of the incident.
The 13 accused were called in for questioning and said they had started the fire as a prank. The case has now been referred to a public prosecutor.
 Moderate quake shakes Nafpaktos, west PeloponneseA moderate earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale shook the northwestern shores of the Peloponnese and parts of central Greece at around 15:15 on Monday.
According to the Athens Observatory Geodynamic Institute, the epicentre of the quake was located 25 kilometres east of Nafpaktos. No damages have been reported so far, according to the fire department.
 Thessaloniki twinned with historic BusanThessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos signed a twinning protocol with Busan Mayor Hur Nam-sik on Monday within the framework of his visit to South Korea.
The signing of the protocol took place at the City Hall of Busan in the presence of state officials and production sector representatives.
Busan, Korea's largest seaport and the fifth largest in the world, is a candidate city for the 2020 Olympic Games.
 Armed robber apprehended following car chase in AthensPolice on Monday successfully apprehended an armed robber that had stolen an undisclosed amount of money from a branch of Alpha Bank in Nea Kifissia at 13:00 the same day.
The arrest was made following a sensational car chase between police and the culprit in a getaway car.
The robber, a Greek national, had managed to carry out the robbery and had driven off in the car but was this was spotted by police as he tried to get away. During the chase, he threw wads of banknotes behind him in an attempt to slow the pursuit but did not manage to elude the patrol cars giving chase and was finally arrested after he crashed into a tree on the side of Tatoi Avenue in Menidi, sustaining slight injuries.
 Cloudy, rainy on TuesdayCloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -3C and 16C. Cloudy and rainy in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 2C to 14C. Cloudy with light snowfall or sleet in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -1C to 5C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime Minister George Papandreou's talks in Paris on Sunday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who expressed support for the Greek government, and the support plan for the euro together with Germany's and France's solidarity to Greece, dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Government in confusion! Thousands of unemployed youth deprived of the possibility to work in the public sector".
APOGEVMATINI: "Sarkozy wholeheartedly supports Greece .....turmoil prevails in ruling PASOK party - Paris remains faithful to the policy of Greece-France-Alliance".
AVRIANI: "Sarkozy rescues Greece from the IMF and from US bank speculators - The slogan Greece-France-Alliance is revived".
ELEFTHEROS: "PASOK MP and former Minister Costas Skandalidis sets fire to PASOK - Papandreou livid - Scenario of expulsion, as exemplary punishment".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "PASOK rebels' criticism target Papandreou".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Sarkozy makes clear statement on Germany and France's solidarity: Allons enfants de l'euro".
ESTIA: "PASOK torpedoes the measures - We are imposing them but they do not reflect us!".
ETHNOS: "Support plan with Sarkozy's seal - French initiative to alter Germany's hesitance".
IMERISSIA: "Financial crimes squad (SDOE) in role of traffic police".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Europe's support a step closer - Papandreou satisfied over the fact that he is not facing the prospect of having to resort to the IMF (International Monetary Fund)".
TA NEA: "Sarkozy's, Merkel's support to Greece sealed - The European aid plan for Greece".
VRADYNI: "PASOK against George Papandreou".
 Spokesman: International conference on Cyprus problem not on the agendaNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said on Monday that convening an international conference on the Cyprus problem was not on the agenda.
Commenting on reports that there may be an international conference, with the participation of the two communities, on the Cyprus problem,
Stephanou said ''this is information'' and that ''there is nothing before us and we have not been told anything.''
Asked if such a conference would be rejected if raised with the President of the Republic, Stephanou said that the Greek Cypriot side was concentrating on negotiations with the Turkish Cypriot side to solve the Cyprus problem.
He reiterated statements made on Sunday by the President of the Republic that the Greek Cypriot side was participating in the negotiations with goodwill, dedication to principles and the necessary realism to pave the way for a solution of the Cyprus problem, ''nothing more and nothing less.''
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
The leaders of the two communities have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunify the island.
 Spokesman: Gul's statement on ECHR decision cannot be disregardedNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The government has stressed that it cannot discount remarks by the Turkish president that Ankara had intervened in a ruling the European Court of Human Rights has issued, relating to Turkish occupied Greek Cypriot properties, which essentially recognises the self-styled immovable property commission (IPC) in Turkish occupied Cyprus.
"The fact that the Turkish president has stated that the Court judgment was issued after his intervention cannot be disregarded nor can it be accepted," Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou stressed here Monday.
Asked to give the government position on the view that there has been political intervention with the Court, Stephanou said that "bearing in mind that we are involved in a negotiating process, with all due respect to the ECHR, the Court should had been more careful and should have taken into account that fact".
"Turkey's President Abdullah Gul has talked about Turkey's success, which is due to his and Turkey's intervention on this case, as he claimed. This is something that cannot go unnoticed. We cannot accept such a thing", Stephanou added.
The European Court (ECHR), in Strasbourg, said that the IPC is an effective domestic remedy as far as property claims are concerned, and urged Greek Cypriots to address their claims to the IPC. It also said that Greek Cypriots must first exhaust all domestic remedies before resorting to the ECHR, including applying to the so-called high administrative court in the occupied areas of Cyprus, if the IPC remedy is not to their satisfaction.
Cyprus has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. President Demetris Christofias is engaged in talks with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community to find a political settlement.
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